The men in the eye of the storm
Sunday 28th October 2012 will become synonymous with the day that English football appeared to plunge into turmoil.
In the weeks following that notorious Chelsea and Manchester Utd encounter, the football family deteriorated into furious infighting.
This week saw the saga take a new twist with the Metropolitan Police dropping their investigation due to lack of evidence, and the subsequent comments from distinguished Barrister at Law and member of the Society of Black Lawyers, Peter Herbert.
Instead, his comments were met with astonishment by the wider football community.
It was not just the FA that criticized his outburst—calling his comments “ill-advised and unwelcome.” In a rare show of support, the football industry and the country’s media leapt to their defense.
His comments are perfectly pitched and his backing of the FA will hopefully reassure other members of the football industry—regardless of color, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.
In my opinion, Herbert could have inadvertently brought English football back from the brink of disaster.
Over the last few weeks, both Clattenburg and John Mikel Obi divided opinion within the football family.
What was said? Was anything actually said? Was it all a misunderstanding?
Social networking and online media sites were inundated with supporter’s opinions—with Clattenburg appearing to gain the majority of the support.
But now Herbert has taken centre stage.
Since Thursday morning, both the football and media industry have rallied around the FA, defending their integrity and blasting Herbert for his counter-productive comments.
I believe this is just what the game needed, some common ground, and Herbert’s attack appears to be the catalyst for football unity.
Simply put, his comments about the FA were wrong.
The Society of Black Lawyers asked for police intervention based on no physical evidence or character statements. How can a highly skilled legal group, for want of a better expression, score an elementary own goal?
Whatever the eventual outcome, Chelsea’s conduct should not be called into question. It has to support claims of racism by its players—every club should—and the witch-hunt that followed was unacceptable.
The same goes for people speculating on what Clattenburg allegedly said.
All parties concerned should have been allowed to privately assist the FA with their inquiries, without outside pressure attempting to dictate proceedings.
In regards to the whole inquiry, only the contribution by the heavy-handed Society of Black Lawyers has really irked me.
That said, I firmly believe Herbert’s comments were born out of frustration and not malice. The FA has historically been passive when dealing with racism cases—John Terry's being a prime example.
Also, the Stamford Bridge incident, and subsequent fallout, is a microcosm of a much wider issue. The bigger picture is the cause, rather than the effect.
What historical and current factors have led the Society of Black Lawyers to believe that their existence as a body is required? It is a sad indictment of modern-day society that any section still feels isolated or mistreated in 2012.
My personal preference is that unity is required to overcome all of football’s problems—not just racism—as segregation tends to cause issues, not solve them.
This weekend's fixtures were trouble-free, even showing some much need respect between players, managers and officials. Maybe it was just masking the oncoming storm, with the FA preparing to announce the verdict of their investigation next week.
But, for now, let's enjoy a rare period of calm within English football.
And, In some part, we have Herbert's misguided comments to thank for this.